Many 80’s and 90’s r&b groups have re-emerged after long absences in recent years, mostly with mixed results. For After 7, their last album came over two decades ago, and although they’ve been on the road touring, many were left wondering if they’d ever return with new music. Well the new music came in 2016, and it began with the Babyface assisted “I Want You” which was an immediate hit at radio. What will follow is their return album “Timeless” which is set to release next month. The group has retained all of the original ingredients from their previous success, and are poised to pick up where they left off. YouKnowIGotSoul sat down with the group while they were on a promo run in NYC and discussed how the album came together, Babyface’s involvement in its creation, how their creative process has changed, what they have lined up next, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Happy to see you guys working on putting out this new album. Your bio talked about how you guys didn’t plan to do this new album, it just kind of happened. What really sparked the recording of the new music?
After 7 (Keith): I think what sparked it was Kevon’s brother, Jason’s uncle Babyface. It came about as he was recording his project. He had some songs that didn’t work for him, and as he was going through the songs, he thought maybe we could bring After 7 back with some of the music. The main thing for us is that Melvin was an integral part of it coming together. We as After 7 as you see us, a little over a year ago, we didn’t plan for this to happen. It kinda just happened. All of the elements came together when Babyface came up with the idea and went to Melvin and he said he was willing to come back. That put it in play. Prior to that, honestly, we were really content with the catalog and the work that we had put into After 7. To come back and marginalize a re-entry without having those ingredients we had initially in 1989, it was just a voyage we didn’t want to take without the original components. We didn’t want to come back without the same quality of writing, production, and songs. When Babyface came to the table, that kind of took that out of play. To have his support and endorsement and enthusiasm, it put it all back into play for us.
YouKnowIGotSoul: That’s something we had wondered, if you guys would have been comfortable with leaving the legacy off where it was after the final album in the mid 90’s. Would you have been happy with all you had accomplished?
After 7 (Kevon): Had it not been for the type of record we have today, I think so. That was our greatest reservation, to think that the possibility of going back and trying to recreate the magic or find that magic without those critical components of Babyface and Darryl Simmons, and the synergy among us. Quite some time had passed, there seemed to be a good working environment that evolves when we come together. Not having that in play, if we couldn’t precisely do it the way we did it, I think all of us were satisfied with leaving our catalog intact.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What has it been like in the studio creating this new album “Timeless”.
After 7 (Jason): It’s been a step by step process. First it was getting us all in the same place for an extended period of time to be able to knock the songs out. Everything else was organic. We came in, songs were ready, they were already pre-demoed by Babyface himself and he penned the songs. He would just say “You go do this part, you do this part” and we’d get in there and knock song by song out as best as we could.
After 7 (Kevon): Also logistically, Melvin’s in Indianapolis, I’m in Nashville, he’s in L.A., he’s in Atlanta. People are also busy with their lives as well. So it was kinda tricky at times to pull it all together, but everybody felt this was something worth fighting for.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We had a chance to hear the advance copy of the album, and the awesome thing about it is that it sounds authentic and true to your original sound. In fact, what stood out was it felt like you picked up right where you left off after the last album, it sounded that close. We were so glad to hear you go there. Was that the aim?
After 7 (Kevon): We didn’t know to do it any other way. To break away and go down another lane because music has evolved, would have been less than authentic for us. I think that basically when we heard this kind of music, I was teasing my brother Babyface, when After 7 came out, we were riding metaphorically in a Cadillac. So if we came back on the scene today, we still have to be authentic, but we need to have a Bentley. So when we come around the corner in a Bentley, it will be like “OH, this is After 7”. And Babyface gave us that in song and in enthusiasm. Nobody knew how it was going to turn out. After the first song, everybody was kind of shocked that the sound was still intact. It just kinda spurred us on to continue with one song after another.
After 7 (Keith): Honestly, we started to only do one song. It evolved into the album because all of the labels that we had let hear it or had as consultants, they said “Hey guys, nobody is interested in After 7 singles, your fan base is about albums”. So that changed the complexion of everything and we had focus on creating an album.
YouKnowIGotSoul: “I Want You” was the first single and the song was a big hit and was embraced by fans immediately. Talk about the expectation for the song and if you knew it would take off like it did.
After 7 (Jason): I think we all had a general feeling that it was a great song. You usually try not to jinx yourself beforehand, but we knew it was a strong song, we know when the group’s sound is there and it gels the way it’s supposed to. We wanted to be positive but at the same time realistic. When it went to market and radio finally took to it, I think we were pleasantly shocked at the response and the speed it grew. “Let Me Know” is having an even faster response, so it’s a fun ride.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Can you guys reflect on the difference in making music now compared to the late 80’s and early 90’s. How much has it changed?
After 7 (Kevon): From a recording aspect, it’s evolved and there are a whole lot of things that have changed since we recorded. Since we’ve been away for this long, collectively as a group, I look at what my brother has done and continues to do as well as Darryl Simmons. They continue to work in this business and grow and hone their skills. When we walked in there today, they had a whole different pace at which they work. Get on the train or get left is the way it is! *Laughs* One of the greatest changes for us is trying to learn how to use this tool which everyone in the industry uses now is this thing called Auto Tune! It did not exist when we were doing it; you sang on pitch and you sang until you got it right! Now in walks this thing that expedites the process but at the same time, if you don’t know how to manage that in the right kind of way, you sterilize the sound of a vocalist. It makes everybody begin to almost have this same similar timber. Something gets lost in the feeling. There’s nothing like just really singing a song and just really hearing the feeling that comes across without it being adjusted mechanically.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What’s special about this release is that we see a lot of groups who come out in the early 90’s and who are trying to make a comeback but come up short. Many have broken up by now. You guys are here and the bond has kept you together. What will it mean when the album releases?
After 7 (Keith): For me and the group, it’s a blessing and privilege. We’re blown away by it. It’s not an easy thing to do. But with the elements we’ve brought, we’ve kept ourselves physically, mentally prepared to have the opportunity if it ever came. For us, we didn’t want to try to come back unless we could come back with something similar to what we’ve done in the past. We’ve seen other groups come back and have lineup changes and seen records released and not become successful. We just weren’t ready to run and put ourselves out. To have done what we’ve done along with Babyface and Darryl Simmons, we’re totally elated to have an album come out. “Timeless”, we kind of think of ourselves as that; our old music is fresh today as when it was released in 1989. That’s the brand of the recording and the sound. The sweetness of how we attack recording and we’ve brought that same process again. It’s an opportunity for our fans who love After 7 music that we can instill this timeless music. Our fans have pretty much been lovers of our music for a long time. Even though we don’t understand the impact we have on people’s lives as we move around the country and people embrace us. We’re finding the love for us and our music is a lot bigger than we ever felt. The opportunity to create “Timeless”, is to give our fans this gift of an extension of love through our music. It’s exhilarating, it really is, this is huge.
After 7 (Kevon): It’s a huge step in the direction of sharing fresh new music from a group that’s been away for 20 years. To touch people in a positive way hopefully and it endears them in a way that they know this music we’ve created has a solid brand and they can recognize when they hear it. All too often today, because of things like auto tune, things get watered down. It’s getting a little better to identify who you’re hearing, but for a time it sounded like everybody sounded the same. I think people are starting to clearly define what their sound is and you can recognize when you hear it today. After 7 is one of those sounds you recognize when you hear it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Kevon, as we discussed off camera, you were the first interview we did for YouKnowIGotSoul when you released your last solo album “Who Knew”. Can you talk about the feeling of releasing music as a solo artist compared to with the group?
After 7 (Kevon): The group thing is what I’ve always felt comfortable with. To have success, because it started from the group, it didn’t start the other way. To me, it’s like there is no comparison. The success of After 7 and the fact there is so much history with the songs we’ve done, as opposed to the success I’ve had as a solo artist, there’s a night and day difference. There is a synergy that is created when we are on stage that touches people and moves people in such a way. It just means more to me with After 7 than it does as a soloist.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your plans following the album. Will there be a tour? Are there plans for future albums?
After 7 (Kevon): I don’t know about the recording aspect, we’re going to try and step through this as it unfolds. As the record is released, the hope is that the right opportunities present themselves. What’s critical for us is to find the right package, not just jump out there just to be out there. We want to put ourselves together and give the right presentation that After 7 is known for. So we’re excited for that aspect. There are two different animals; the recording process, which you have to get adjusted to do what it is you do in the studio. Studio recording and live performance are totally two different words and they take conviction on both parts. We’re stepping into the live performance aspect of the new body of music. We’ll see what the future holds.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you guys would like to add?
After 7 (Jason): We all know the importance of social media and utilizing the platforms available. We like most artists today try and stay active and engage our fans and communicate. We’d like to let them know we are here and human. Please follow us on all of the social properties @After7Music and After7Music.com.
After 7 (Kevon): “Timeless” comes out October 14th and you can pre-order from Amazon.com.